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Is that an erection I smell?

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  Willard "Bill" Hershberger

    

   The State of My Fat Ass                                     October 2006


October 31, 2006

-- So I was standing in line at Wendy's a few days ago.... Toney told me I was on my own for dinner, and I'd made a beeline for my beloved #1 with cheese, no pickles, and a Coke.

There was a family in front of me with two or three teenage boys, each suffering from the high-ugly, ordering about forty dollars worth of fast food. It was taking forever. The Dad asked if he could have potato chips instead of fries with his meal (something I didn't even know was an option), then proceeded to polish off the entire bag while standing at the counter.

Man, that makes my blood boil.... When I see people eating straight off the tray while still standing at the cash register, as workers struggle to keep the assembly line of fat running at full capacity, I feel like throwing punches. For the love of God man, have a little dignity!

The mother, who seemed to hold the keys to a testicle lockbox, was handling the money. As she paid Dad absent-mindedly flattened out his potato chip bag, until it was like a sheet of notebook paper. While he worked on this important project he continued moving his lips and jawbone even though the chips were long gone. It seemed to be some sort of primal phantom-chewing instinct at play, and I had to turn my head.

The cashier asked the mother if she'd like to donate one dollar to the mumble mumble fund, and the woman waved her hand dismissively and said, "Sure. Whatever." Then the cashier went back to helping load the four(!) trays they'd dedicated to this crew, and I could feel my blood pressure inching upward. The whole thing was pissing me off.

While I waited on the butter hogs' trough to be filled, I grumbled under my breath, then began distracting myself by scripting an answer to the coming "Do you want to donate a dollar?" question. My plan was to say, "I'm sorry, which disease was that again?" Then when the cashier repeated it, I'd answer, "Oh no, I don't donate for that one."

By the time it was finally my turn, I had my lines memorized and was ready to go. This was going to be great! And she took my order and money, gave me back my change, said thank you and turned away.

Wotta rip-off!

-- I don't know about you, but I've been recording as many TV campaign commercials as possible, so we can continue watching them here at the Compound, even after election day. It makes me sad to realize that we're almost at the end, and will soon live in a world with a greatly-reduced amount of political advertising. No more doom and gloom. No more character assassination. No more "We're all going to hell in a handbasket, and there's a shortage of handbaskets!" 

And mister, that's why I'm doing something about it.

-- And speaking of archival material, it appears that Phil Hendrie is going to re-launch his new and improved website today. As I type this, there's a Coming Soon page here. But Phil sent out a mass email a few days ago, promising that the site will be up and running before October ends. Eventually it will feature every complete show from at least the Los Angeles era, and that's ten years of genius, baby. Plus, he says he'll be doing a weekly podcast, which has the Phil Phanatics all abuzz, as well as some sort of mysterious web animation project.

Needless to say, I'll be a charter subscriber. Seven bucks a month is a small price to pay. And this time it's going straight to Phil, and not Premiere Radio, or whatever. Hook me up, goddammit.

-- I hope it's not too obvious, but I'm having all sorts of trouble squeezing-out this update today. I just can't get myself into the fucked-upness zone, for some reason. But, luckily for all of us, I have some exciting news: Metten has risen! I'm not sure if he planned this to happen on Halloween, or if it was only a coincidence, but just when we thought he was gone forever.... he's returned. Right here.

-- And I know this is sorta short, but that's the way it goes sometimes. I'll leave with a Question of the Day that just occurred to me a few minutes ago, as I was walking upstairs for a Little Debbie oatmeal cookie.

When I was in high school and afterwards, there was a popular dance club in our area called Galaxy 2000. I only went there a couple of times, because I'm not really a dance club kinda guy. But there was no escaping their advertising. It was all over the radio, wedged in between every horrible Eddie Money song, and right up in your face.

I remember they had a regular event where every guy who showed up on a certain night received a bolt at the door, and every girl a nut. If you could locate the guy or girl who held your corresponding piece of hardware, and you could get them to, ahem, screw together, both of you received a free drink. Or something like that.

For some reason that particular gimmick stuck in my head. Probably because it's so creatively blatant. The only one that rivals it is a club here, where they reportedly sponsor a Penny Till U Pee night once a week. Apparently they give everyone a wristband that entitles you to buy drinks for a penny each, until you have to take a whizz. Then your wristband is taken away, and it's back to the regular inflated prices. 

Good stuff.

What are the best club gimmicks? I have a feeling there are a ton of good ones that I've never heard about, since I don't get out much. Tell us about it, won't you?

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 30, 2006

-- We had a birthday party for the youngest Secret yesterday, at the pumpkin patch. It was outdoors, which we knew was a gamble this time of year, but figured that unless it was pouring rain everything would be OK. Well, it didn't rain, but everything wasn't OK....

We rented a "party site" near the playground, which featured three or four picnic tables and a circle of hay bales surrounding a big campfire. The flames were already kicking by the time we arrived, and there was a stack of wood nearby so we could keep 'em going. It was cold and windy out there, but eight year olds don't notice that sort of thing, we kept telling ourselves.

Toney set up a table full of snacks, and kids began trickling in. And it just kept getting colder and colder. The sites on both sides of us were also occupied, and many of the people out there were sporting full-on winter coats and scarves. All of us instantly formed a bond via bitching.

The kids were drawn like magnets to a big mountain of hay bales nearby, with tunnels inside and ropes hanging from the sides for climbing, etc. Within minutes every one of them was filthy, their expensive Columbia and L.L. Bean coats soiled like coal miners' field jackets. Man, we're going be blamed for this, I whispered to Toney. She said she'd already beaten me to it. Those yuppie parents are going to want our heads on a stick, we knew.

The wind was terrible, just blasting the cold right through us. I stood near the fire as much as I could, and watched the young hooligans crawling through the muck and leaping off the top of the hay bales, certain that one would eventually be taken away in an ambulance and we'd lose our house during the ensuing legal proceedings.

Then an extra-strong wind gust came roaring through and dumped a big bowl of neon-orange cheese balls into the mud. And for the next ten minutes I chased them around, trying to wrangle the runaway treats into a Wal-Mart sack. It was like something off the Lucy Show.

And that's pretty much the way this "party" went. Shit being spilled and turned over, kids running wild and in every direction, punctuated by a howling wind straight off the polar ice cap. At one point we saw dark clouds rolling toward us, and a woman next door pointed and hollered, "Look at that! Now it's going to rain!! This is now officially the Worst Party Ever."

But it didn't rain, it snowed. Not for long, but pretty damn hard. It was almost funny. Almost.

About halfway through the kids got bored with rolling around in filth, and started throwing stuff into the fire. We told them to knock it off, but they continued doing it behind our backs. I turned around once and caught a boy dropping a huge armload, bigger than his own torso, of loose hay into the flames. It ignited and immediately went airborne, causing flying fire to go sailing in the general direction of the children's playground. Crap! We received a stern talking-to about that, from a staff member.

One goofy little kid got all intoxicated with burning shit up, like something I'd never seen. He had a look in his eyes of pure undiluted love. He threw paper plates in there, candy, a cup full of Mountain Dew, and finally asked Toney if he could take off his jacket and stuff it in as well. I'm not joking. We told him to go crawl around in the horse manure with the other maniacs and leave the campfire to the adults.

But I'm fairly certain that kid isn't finished with fire. Not by a long-shot. I believe we provided the key that unlocked a pyromaniac for the next generation. Yet another sign of a successful children's party!

Near the end Toney rounded everyone up, and they sang "Happy Birthday" to the Secret. Our shivering boy opened his presents (a Target gift certificate got loose in the wind and was headed for a stand of pine trees, but somebody dove on it and provided the save), and had cake. The cake was decorated in a Halloween theme, with loads of black and orange icing. The black was like India ink, and before it was over every one of those kids looked like dirty-as-fuck miniature Marilyn Mansons, their lips black and glistening and quite evil-looking.

"You can give them back to their parents," I told Toney, "I'll just stay here and clean up."

After everyone left, the oldest Secret and his friend wanted me to go into the corn maze with them, and I told them to forget it. They started in with the "pleeeeeeeaze?" and I made it clear that it wasn't going to happen, there wasn't even a sliver of a chance, so they could just drop their campaign. Last time it only took us 38 minutes to go through that thing, but we got lucky. Toney talked to a woman last week who said her husband and sons recently got stuck inside the corn maze for almost three hours, and the guy finally freaked-out and thrashed through the walls to escape. Heh. I was in no mood for wall-thrashing, so both shuffled away acting all dejected, with their arms straight down like they were carrying luggage.

As we were leaving I was walking across the parking lot and another gust of wind came ripping through. It felt like somebody walked up to me and flung a handful of dirt in my face. Both of my contact lenses were positively breaded with a fine sand, and tears were streaming down my face. I had trouble seeing to drive, and came upon a Road Closed sign, further extending my trip home to warmth and sweet sweet saline solution. I may have said a few bad words as I drove.

This morning? Yes, the youngest Secret is home sick, with a 101 degree temperature and a complexion that would make Perry Farrell look healthy. He's under a blanket right now, just staring straight ahead. He has a doctor's appointment at 10:45.

And we'd told ourselves that everything would be OK if it didn't rain. Good stuff.

You guys have a great day, and I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 27, 2006

-- Yesterday, when Toney got home from work, she opened the front door and ran it across a mound of dog vomit. As the door moved, it smeared the puke in a large swooping arc, and she apparently didn't care for this. The second pool of upchuck in the living room didn't help matters, either.

I was sitting at work, listening to Clive Bull, when my phone rang:

Me: Hello, it's Jeff!
Toney: I'm going to take this goddamn dog to a taxidermist.
Me: Who is this?
Toney: I'm not kidding, I'm going to have them render him decorative.
Me: What happened?
Toney: The kids like him, so we'll have him stuffed and mounted to a base, and we can just move him from room to room....

It took a long time for me to finally drag the story out of her, and to get her to let go of the idea of rendering our beloved family pet "decorative" (something she obviously finds intriguing). And all I can say is Black Lips Houlihan had better shoot for a puke-free day today. Because I can't really tell if Toney's joking or not.

She told me she was going to the grocery store a few minutes ago, but I have a nagging feeling that she's really out shopping for dog bases somewhere. Shit!

-- We have a gas fireplace in our living room that's never really worked properly. When we first moved here I tried to light it on several occasions, and couldn't get the pilot light to stay on. And when my parents were visiting once my Dad worked with it and finally got it going, but it put off a horrible stink that made us nervous. I was afraid they'd find all of us dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, sitting in chairs and staring straight ahead. Like Weird Al's parents.

Yeah, I know carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, but that thing was doing all sorts of strange things. How was I to know it wasn't pumping out a death gas as well? So we never used it again. Why risk it? Poisonings and catastrophic explosions can cast a gloom over an otherwise fine day, I've heard.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when the temperatures started dipping, and Bourbon Season kicked into high gear. We started thinking about that fireplace, and how nice it would be if we could get it to work.

I shrugged and told Toney to call the man. Meaning: no way I'm monkeying around with it. I knew a guy in Atlanta who attempted to do some DIY repairs on his furnace, and after years of skin grafts he was almost back to normal. Except his pubes were reportedly gone forever.... And I can't have that.

So she called the gas company, who offer a service where they come out and look over your gas appliances, and inspect them for safety, etc. Earlier this week a man showed up, sporting abundant facial hair straight out of the 1880s. After a fifteen minute inspection, he gave us his professional opinion on why our fireplace wouldn't work properly

It was absolutely filthy.

He said there was so much dust in the works of the thing a safety was being triggered, causing the pilot light to turn itself off. And the horrible funk? Burning dust. Boy did I feel douchey. He assured us it's a common problem though, possibly out of sympathy. Ol' Nineteenth Century seemed like good people.

But in our defense, who dusts inside their fireplace? Obviously not us, or the people who lived here before us, either. That crap was shutting down on the first week we moved in, so it must've been dirty from the get-go. And the stench.... I was convinced it was soaking into our furniture, drapes and clothes. Nasty-ass.

The guy rolled in some sort of R2-D2 industrial vacuum and commenced to sucking. Then he did several tests for carbon monoxide and told us everything was fine. It was worth the price of the service call just for that, if nothing else. He suggested we let it burn for several hours "to get rid of the stink," then we should be in good shape.

So this weekend we'll have ourselves a cozy fire to go along with the Kentucky sippin' whiskey. And I guess I'll drag myself in there every once in a while and polish the nozzle, so to speak. I'm confident I'll be able to devise a workable method.

-- I'm listening to this CD right now, one of my all-time favorites. I had a copy on vinyl back in the day, and played the grooves off the thing. Toney hates it, she says it sounds like "a bunch of British fags who smile when they sing," but I think it's genius.

When we were in Atlanta one of our co-workers announced, months in advance, that she was planning a trip to London. And we heard about it almost daily, for a long long time. Before she left I wrote down the name of the band and the album, and asked if she could try to find it for me on her vacation. This was the pre-internet days, and a person had to go to great lengths to feed his addiction, especially when it came to ultra-obscure groups like the Monochrome Set.

I didn't really believe anything would come of it, though. The chick was flaky personified, and I was certain she'd forget me, or would simply disregard the request. But to my surprise, she returned with the CD, and I was actually holding it in my hands.... I nearly wept.

Yeah, she told me I owed her $25, which was almost certainly a price gouge, but I didn't care. Hell, I even gave her a pass on all the cringe-inducing British phrases she suddenly began incorporating into her speech ("Oooh, we had a lovely holiday!"). Under normal circumstances I would've said, "Aren't you from Reno, Nevada? What's with all the pretentiousness? What are you, Natalie Merchant now?" But I let it drop, because she'd provided me with the hook-up.

Do any of your albums or CDs have a "history," some sort of story attached to them? I know this one's a stretch, but it's the best I can do today. Work with me people....

And I'll see you on Monday. 
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October 26, 2006

-- Remember the Apple Eater? He was the person I used to share an office with at work. He's a nice guy and everything, but he eats, like, a peck of apples every day. Very loudly. He snorts and grunts, and bludgeons that fruit into submission. Oh, he shows it who's boss alright, and it drove me crazy.

That, coupled with the fact that our office was located directly across the hall from the bathrooms made for quite an enjoyable work experience. We'd hear the sound of someone sprinting through the hall, followed by an apocalyptic assplosion, and then the funk would start drifting in like fog off the bay. Simply excellent. As my old Atlanta buddy Scott would put it, somebody need to see a physician!

Oh, one more thing to bitch about.... The Apple Eater also insisted on listening to ESPN radio through his tinny laptop speakers every day, and that was perhaps the worst part of all. It's just non-stop assholes with New York accents talking all belligerently and acting as if they can't believe it, accompanied by audio clips of athletes saying things like, "Well, all we can do is go out there every day and play hard." Horrible.

But we haven't shared an office in a long time, and neither of us is near the bathroom anymore. And for some reason we get along a lot better now.... Earlier this week I was passing by his door, and he was sitting in there by himself. He was intently looking at his computer screen, and just as I went past, he hollered, "Oh yeah? Well, I've got your battery recall swingin', pal!"

I just kept walking.

-- A few days ago I received a catalog in the mail, called KingSize. It's apparently a company that sells clothes and caters to the husky man. And it came addressed to me(!). Do you think I'm in some kind of international database of fatties now? How did this happen?! Did I finally pile on enough weight to trigger the mailing of catalogs with a swaddling theme? I don't think I care for any of it.

As I flip through the thing I see jeans that start at a 44 waist, and go up to 72. Forty-four is apparently considered petite to these folks. And there's a page of underwear, with descriptions that emphasize the "heat resistant" fibers used. Because, I guess, we stout men can sometimes generate a white-hot solar flare in the crotch of our britches while waddling to the vending machine, and require a thermal barrier to protect ourselves and others.

Like I said, I don't care for any of it.

-- I've mentioned this before, but it's still bothering me. It seems that every time we go out to dinner as a family, there's a wandering magician there. Have any of you encountered this? They stroll around the restaurants looking for a party with little kids, then swoop in with the "entertainment."

I'm not really a fan of the interactive dining experience, and wish those guys would just leave us alone. It casts a gloom of worry over the entire dinner. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder, checking the guy's location, and preparing to take counter-measures if necessary.

"Don't make eye contact," I tell the Secrets, even though it's no longer necessary to remind them. And since I don't believe the magicians are allowed to approach anyone who is actually eating, Toney and I always order soup or a salad (even if we don't want one), so we'll have food on our table sooner. Conversely, when we're finished with our meals, we don't allow the waitress to remove our plates, so they can be used as props in the event of an emergency.

Yes, we've got our procedure honed to the point where our only real exposure is during the period between the ordering of our meals, and when the salads arrive. That's the only blind-spot.

But we're working to close that gap as well. It seems that if we pretend to be having a deep Important Conversation, it acts as an effective magician repellent. On a recent visit to Bennigan's I even went so far as to pretend I was sobbing into my napkin. However, the illusion was broken by the fact that Toney and the boys started cracking up. So there was a middle-aged "KingSize" man sitting there blubbering, while his family laughed in his face.

Not exactly what I had in mind, but it worked. I saw a brief "holy fuck!" expression cross the dude's face, and he went off to become somebody else's problem. This weekend I think I'm going to have to sit everyone down, and work on our execution. Sure, we got the desired result, but it was sloppy, real sloppy.

We can do so much better.

-- And I'll leave you now with a link to a fun site where you can watch dozens and dozens of old TV commercials. Right here. I don't know why I love this kind of thing, but I do. I can't watch just one. 

What are your favorite vintage commercials, or public service announcements? Tell us about it, won't you? And save me from this lame-ass Question of the Day.... Sweet Maria.

Damn, why does today feel so powerfully like Friday?

See ya tomorrow. 
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October 25, 2006

-- I watched a few innings of the World Series over the weekend, out of a sense of duty, and a small amount of residual panic left over from childhood. When I was a kid post-season play was exciting, of course, but it also meant there'd soon be no more baseball until spring. A horrifying prospect, indeed. And it still makes me nervous, I find, even though my attention to the sport can now be labeled sub-casual.

Oh, I always have a general knowledge of the standings. I know which teams are doing well this year, and the ones that are munching the big turd hoagie. But I don't devote nearly enough time to watching actual games, and knowing the players and their stories anymore. I find that I lack the required allegiances and hatreds (both equally important to sports enjoyment) to keep me interested. So I don't watch, and that only makes matters worse. It's one big vicious circle of lame.

I was sitting there on Saturday and Sunday completely baffled by all the new players, mostly Spanish and Japanese it seemed, and my mind began wandering. "What's with the team names?" I asked Toney. What do Cardinals have to do with St. Louis, anyway? Is there a high concentration of red birds in Missouri? Maybe, but it doesn't feel right somehow. Tigers, I can understand a little easier. It's an aggressive, ferocious animal. Perfect for a sports team. But Cardinals?

This touched-off a longish conversation, in which we attempted to place baseball team names into a set of pre-defined categories. Yes, we'd had a few adult beverages. What of it?

We started with the birds: Cardinals, Orioles, and Blue Jays. A full ten percent of Major League Baseball, circa 2006. And they're not even scary birds. If I were starting a professional sports team and wanted to go the poultry route, I'd stick with scavengers and predators, like Hawks and Falcons. An Oriole doesn't really strike fear in the hearts of men, you know? The Baltimore Flammulated Owls would've been a better choice, I think.

Then comes the animals: Marlins, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Devil Rays, and Tigers. I've already approved of the Tigers, and the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks are appropriately frightening, but the other two are fairly lame. A cub is a baby bear. Why a baby bear? It doesn't make sense to me. It could've been the Chicago Grizzlies, with a roaring beast on its hind legs as a logo, but they decided to name the team after the children of scary animals. It's baffling. And a marlin?! Man, that just makes me laugh.

The Red Sox, White Sox, and Reds fall into the hosiery category, which seems kind of bizarre until you think about it. Back in the early days of baseball, uniforms were, well, fairly uniform. It was difficult to tell one team from another, so they started wearing different color socks. And thus were born the Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox, and the Cincinnati Red Stockings (or Redlegs). The Reds were the only team to distance themselves from what now feels like low-wattage gayness, but there's no hiding the fact that they belong squarely in the hosiery category. But hey, at least they weren't called the Cincinnati Sequined Vests.

Brewers, Mariners, Rangers, and Padres are regional vocations. Sorta. And the Indians and Braves fall into the wild whooping Injun category, always a popular choice. The Giants and Pirates are good sports team names, straight out of the imagination of boys. However, I don't believe there were too many pirates raping and pillaging within the city limits of Pittsburgh back in the day. I just can't see Bluebeard rolling into town aboard a paddlewheel steamship, his crew wearing straw hats and playing banjoes in the background. Ya know?

After that, everything falls apart; my need to categorize and make sense of it all becomes almost impossible. Where do you put the Angels, for instance? I guess you could pair them up with the Padres, but that doesn't really work for me. And what about the Royals? And the Nationals?

The Yankees, Mets, Twins, and Rockies might be squeezed into a loosely-defined "local reference" slot, but we're really pushing it at this point. And if you can't have confidence in your categories, why bother at all? I mean, seriously.

That leaves the A's, short for Athletics, which is an action (I think) or possibly a man's support garment. I just don't know. The Astros came into existence during the 1960's, when America was in the throes of a space exploration frenzy. The same period brought us Tang, and some horrible chocolate-style breakfast bar that my mother used to pack in my lunch when I was in second grade, and the makers claimed was the breakfast of Apollo astronauts. I can't remember what it was called, but I can still taste it, and it's making my lower jaw retract in disgust.

Phillies is just a lame-ass play on the city's name. Why not the New York Newies, or the Arizona Arizoies as well? Pitiful. And the Dodgers started in Brooklyn, originally called the Trolley Dodgers. Because, you see, there were lots of street cars in Brooklyn. Now that they're in Los Angeles, it no longer makes any sense. The only things you dodge in L.A. are bullets, yuppies, and Mexican gardeners. But who's counting?

So you can see, it was only a mildly satisfying exercise. Oh well. You guys can do football and basketball if you want, I'm spent. And don't really care anymore.

See ya tomorrow. 
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October 24, 2006

-- Thanks to everyone who participated in our informal demographic research poll yesterday. It appears that Surf Reporters are not a certain age, or live in a specific region, but are linked by a common sensibility. I like that, and appreciate... well, most of you guys.

The site got infinitely better when we added the comments link at the bottom of each update, allowing everyone to get in on the act. I have no problem admitting that on many days, the comments are funnier than the update itself. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

We've fashioned ourselves a nice little community of fucked-upness here. Thanks folks, sincerely. The Fish thanks you as well. And if you didn't log your vital statistics yesterday, do it today. Or tomorrow. As the poet J. Mascis once said, whatever's cool with me.

Now go buy something from Amazon, dammit.

-- I worked in the yard all afternoon on Sunday. I mowed, I whacked, I raked, and I blew. (And that was before I even got started.) Needless to say, I hate all that stuff with every fiber of my fiber-laden body, but in the end it was a masterpiece. I even walked out into the middle of the street, so I could admire it from the perspective of passing motorists. I guess I was experiencing the satisfaction of a job well-done, but I don't know enough about it to be certain.

After I made every member of the family go outside and heap praise upon me, I fixed us a cuppa two tree stiff bourbon 'n' Cokes, and Toney and I started getting ready for dinner. My role was to make the salad, and that simply can't be done without booze. At least that's been my experience....

Before we sat down to eat, I closed the curtains on the front of the house. It seems that every night, right at dinnertime, an irritating woman walks past with her passel of peanut-allergy children. I call her many things, all having to do with her slightly too-long neck. She's alternately High Neck, Tall Neck, Chimney Neck, and Tower Neck. And she waves at us, through the windows.

I don't know why this bothers me, but it does. It's OK to wave at someone if both parties are outdoors, or indoors, but it feels like a violation somehow when you start mixing and matching. One night she was waving at us, and I closed the curtains right in her face. Then I told everyone that I was about ready to run out on the porch and yell PEANUT! Every one of those kids would probably blow up like Mrs. Puff, I predicted, and the Secrets thought that was a riot.

So we had dinner, and were preparing to settle in for America's Funniest Home Videos, the funniest show on television, and our dog Andy started giving me his I Need To Lay Out A Tan One stare. Grrr... Pennsylvania Outdoor Life was still on though, so I had time. I didn't really care which viewer would win the deluxe turkey call package anyway.

And when I opened the front door, I think I literally shrieked. Everything had gone to hell. Leaves were all over the lawn, and it looked very similar to the way it had before I'd done any work at all. I couldn't believe it. The wind was blowing, and there was a freakin' vortex of leaves in the middle of the yard, taunting me and calling me pussified. I was suddenly on the verge of tears.

Andy went out there and shit in the middle of it all, then I closed the door without saying anything, and went straight to the Maker's Mark bottle. To settle my nerves.

-- I know this one is sorta short, but I need to get to work. It's starting to heat up there, and I'd better be available for bitching and whining sessions. But I'll leave you with a few things to take up the slack.

This a good explosive-diarrhea story that Buck suggested we all read. It's from the National Lampoon Humor Network, you'll notice. So blame them and Buck, not me.

Here's an all-time classic from the print zine era. This is "Ass Shaver" by Doug Holland, from the pages of his legendary Pathetic Life. Anybody know what happened to that guy? He's gone even further underground, it seems. A shame.

And finally, let's switch gears completely, and check out the latest happenings in Normal, over at Jason Headley Dotcom.

See you guys tomorrow. 
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October 23, 2006

-- The minor computer problems I encountered last week scared me enough to go out and buy one of these babies over the weekend. It cost me $119, with a $50 mail-in rebate, for a final cost of $69, at Circuit City. Hell, the $119 was cheaper than Best Buy ($129), not even taking into account the rebate. I think I got a pretty good deal.

So now the thing is sitting beside me on the floor here, unopened and still inside the bag. It'll probably remain in that spot for several weeks, until I work up enough courage to screw around with it, and begin running my hands through my hair like a speed freak. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's plug and play, right? Don't even start with me.... Plug and play, my sweet pantied ass. Why not tell me about all the pretty unicorns that gallop through the woods while you're at it?

As you might suspect, I don't go into these kinds of purchases all willy-nilly. No, I dragged the oldest Secret all over town on Saturday, comparing and contemplating my best course of action. It didn't take long for the whining to begin: "Can we just go home? Pleeease?!" I answered, as usual, with a grunt, and a turning-up of the volume on my Cracker CD.

We started at Sam's, where we built a good computer components shopping foundation by ingesting two hot dogs each at the snack bar. Like last visit there was no sauerkraut at the fixins station, and this time I went back to complain. The woman at the counter hollered at a man sweeping in the corner, and told him to go find me some "kraut."

The guy was wearing two hair nets: one on his head, and another around his chin and beard. He looked like he was ready for surgery, and it took considerable effort for me not to laugh straight in his face. He found a box of individual-serving packets in the cabinet, and began filling up the kraut reservoir with them. He didn't hand me one, he just started filling the thing up while blocking access, requiring me to wait until he was done. Grrr....

I went back to the table and got my hotdogs, figuring I could at least squirt a little mustard on them while I waited. But the pump mechanism didn't seem to be functioning properly, and I couldn't get anything to come out. I hit it several times, fearing a condiment explosion, but nothing happened. Finally, after nearly dislocating my shoulder in an exasperated pump-frenzy, a giant glob shot out, way up on the north end of the wiener.

Great Christ almighty! It was enough mustard for ten hot dogs. I'd have to remove most of it, and use the glob for both dogs. I needed a knife, or a fork, or something.

The dude was still busy re-stocking the fixins counter, and I saw that he'd filled not only the drinking straw compartment with straws, but also every plastic utensils slot. I'm in that place enough to know where things go, and the guy had packed the fork, spork, and knife holes with straws. There must've been five thousand of them, at least a year's supply, and not a single plastic knife. Is he semi-retarded or something? I just don't know.

I asked if he had any knives, and he told me they're not allowed to let customers use them. "We keep them behind the counter," he said. I told him I meant plastic knives, but he just looked at me confused, and adjusted the elastic on his beard net.

Screw it. I took one of his hundreds and hundreds of straws, and began preparing my dogs for their return journey to the table. And as soon as he saw me take one straw away, he frantically replaced it with about five more, having to work hard to squeeze them in. That shit was packed-out.

I had to use the straw to spread around the massive mustard glob, and in the process got the stuff all over me. I had some smeared on my left forearm, and a little was on my jacket sleeve. Also, the straw at one point got bent back a little, then sprang free and launched a wad of mustard through the air, finally landing in the floor over by the cash registers. The Secret laughed so hard he almost choked.

Sam's had a hard drive that was intriguing, but I didn't like the sound of the brand: SimpleTech. For some reason that didn't provide me with much comfort. But it was $85, for 160 GB. I'd have to keep it in mind.

Staples only had four or five to choose from, and most were 500 or 600 GB. Shit man, I'm not planning to run the NASA space program from my house. I just need something to do back-ups and store my Hendrie files. No need to get carried away.

We went to Best Buy, and they had nothing for less than $100. The cheapest was that same SimpleTech drive, for $115. Ha! Remember when that store had good prices? Yeah, I do too.

Finally, we ended up at Circuit City, and after considerable hemming and hawing, I bought the Seagate model with the rebate. I don't like that business where I give them some of my money to hold for a while, then they give it back, provided I don't make any mistakes preparing the paperwork.

But whatever. It was cocktail hour.

As we were leaving a police car and two ambulances came screaming into the parking lot, and stopped in front of Pet Smart. And as we drove the Secret and I offered various guesses as to what might have happened.

I wondered if a big basset hound had pissed in there, and somebody slipped on it and exploded their spinal cord. Customers are allowed to take their dogs inside that store, and I've seen more than one empty their bladders right in the floor -- in a retail setting. If you don't believe me, walk through the front door of that place, stop, and take a great big whiff.

The Secret started spinning a complicated tale about an escaped "exotic bird" terrorizing the customers, and causing mayhem. I began doing the six o'clock news report, playing the part of the anchor, and told of a woman being pecked into submission. The Secret added, with theatrical solemnity, "No word on her condition."

We were both laughing our asses off. Is that wrong, considering that somebody was probably hurt or dying of a heart attack? I don't know, but he's finally to the point where he can join in with the adult insensitivity, and has almost completely graduated from the kid-style (let's face it) stupid shit

Good times.

Yeah, and I'd only meant to write a paragraph or two about that hard drive.... I don't know how these things happen. But I'll leave you now with a couple of fresh Smoking Fish sightings, captured for the ages by Kenju. Very cool! Thanks, as always.

And finally, something new from lakrfool. Right here.

I don't really have a Question of the Day, so I'll take a suggestion from someone in the comments last week, and do some casual demographic research. How old are you? Are readers of the site roughly my age (43), or from all age groups? I'd be interested in knowing.  

I'll see you guys tomorrow. 
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October 20, 2006

-- The Prez came through here yesterday, for a day of (as my Dad would put it) politickin'. For security reasons his arrival time was not released to the public, but as I was driving to work I think I saw roughly one million policemen; the place was absolutely lousy with cops. They must've called in every available officer within a hundred mile radius, because they were everywhere: parked along the interstate, lining the median, cruising the streets at a low rate of speed.... It was a paranoid's worst nightmare.

On their way to a fundraiser in a neighboring town, the motorcade stopped at our favorite little neighborhood ice cream shop, where President Bush hobnobbed with the locals. Early reports were that he'd had a pralines and cream cone, but we now have confirmation that it was actually pralines and caramel. I'll keep you updated on this important story as more details become available.

Here's a pic. I've been to this place literally dozens of times. I always get a single scoop of Oreo on a cone. You know, because it's fukkin yum. They have a flavor there that might possibly be the worst-chosen ice cream name in American history: Barnyard Gravy. I'm not kidding. Have you ever encountered a worst one? I bet not.

Back during the California years my friend Bill was in-town on business, and he and I were out one evening, um, boozing. We'd already had a few nine-dollar Heinekens at the Beverly Hills Hilton (it's a long story that co-stars Ed McMahon), and were on the move. I was driving, and jumped off the freeway at Burbank. I was a bit concerned about drinkin' and drivin' but was nowhere near drunk.

And just as we exited the highway, we saw a dozen or so cops on motorcycles, lights flashing, and coming straight at us. Holy shit! How did they know?? Hell, I'd only had two or three beers. Wasn't this a bit of an overreaction?! What in the brown 'n' serve hell??

But, of course, it wasn't about me. It was about President Clinton passing through in his big ol' shiny limo with the presidential seal on the doors. We were caught up in a rolling roadblock, completely surrounded by police and secret service. And I don't think my sphincter sprang open again until the following Wednesday afternoon.

Have you ever had any encounters with U.S. Presidents? Or foreign ones for that matter. Tell us about it, won't you?

-- While driving home from work last night I started thinking about something Ellen DeGeneres once said to Prince. Yes, you read that correctly.... She interviewed him on her show a while back, and I somehow saw it. One of her questions killed me, and it pops into my head every once in a while, causing me to laugh every time.

She said to Prince: "So, do you ever, like, wear shorts?"

I love that. It ranks with two other great supposedly unscripted talk show moments that have a way of popping into my head all willy-nilly. Another was Tom Arnold on (I think) Letterman. He was asked about Roseanne's claim that he has a small penis. Tom answered, "Well, even a 747 would look small, Dave, if it were flying into the Grand Canyon."

And many years ago Letterman had Arnold Schwarzenegger on his show, and Arnold wanted to show a clip from his latest movie. Letterman said, "OK. Do you need to set this thing up, or is it just gunfire?"

I don't know why these three particular comments stick with me, but they do. There's also a Johnny Carson "Carnac" joke that knocked my skinny eleven year old ass clean out of a chair. He held the envelope to his head and said, "A stick of dynamite." Then he opened it up to reveal the question, and it was, "What does Orson Welles use as a laxative?"

I can still see that in my head, as if it happened yesterday... Good God, I didn't think I was ever going to stop laughing. In fact, I'm laughing right now, all over again.

Is this just another sign of my myriad mental illnesses, or does it happen to you as well? Do little snippets of talk shows or movies appear out of nowhere, years after the fact and seemingly unrelated to whatever's happening at the time, causing you to chuckle like a crazy person? Please tell me it's not just me.

-- My friend Steve called me a few days ago from a location that I don't believe could be guessed in a thousand years. 

Yes, that's correct, the living room of Andy Griffith's boyhood home. 

He and his wife Myra rented the house where Andy grew up, in Mt. Airy, NC, and spent a night there. Steve's an Andy Griffith Show fanatic, as am I, and told me he wanted to do this someday. But, unlike some people I know (and am), he actually followed through with it. 

Pretty cool. I guess this is next on the agenda?

-- And I'm all out of time again. I'll leave you now with another Surf Report-themed haiku from our old friend Lucas. This one is entitled "Bourbon Season."

gray overcast skies
chill wind blowing the brown leaves
bourbon season starts

I'm sorry, I'm getting a little emotional here... Could somebody please hand me a tissue? Thanks Lucas, as always.

And you guys have yourselves a great weekend. I'll see ya on Monday. 
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October 19, 2006

-- Sorry about yesterday. I had some minor computer problems and got myself so worked-up I couldn't function. Around 8:30, as I was chattering my teeth and flailing about, Toney apparently thought she'd better do something. So she stuck her head into the bunker and said, "Waffle House?" She may have saved my life, I don't know....

Even this morning, my shit is acting weird. I'd been meaning to brag about how fast my computer starts up in the morning, since I uninstalled AOL Instant Messenger, but I can't really make that claim anymore. It sounds like something is running in the background, something undoubtedly insidious and not in my best interest, and slowing everything down.

I've hit it with every scan at my disposal, but the clicking persists. Until, I guess, it's done broadcasting my banking information, social security number, date of birth, and length & girth statistics to Paco in Venezuela, or whatever. George is getting irritated!

Yesterday it was something else, and tomorrow it will probably be a new "opportunity" for me. I'm very seriously thinking about investing in an external hard drive. If this thing shits the bed on me, I'm going to be in a world of hurt. I could sleep a lot easier if I knew the site was all backed-up, safe and sound, on a second machine. Also I could use it to store my Phil Hendrie archive and ample collection of "vintage erotica," and not clog up my main computer.

Any opinions or advice on this subject? I need all the help I can get.

-- I watched Plan 9 From Outer Space a few nights ago. Supposedly it's the worst movie ever made, but I don't know about that. Sure, the so-called special effects are laughable, the acting is bad, the continuity is all screwed up, and the script is awful. But at least it's not boring.

I dated a girl, back during a previous lifetime, who was into art films and foreign movies, and all that stuff. I'd regularly find myself at horrible, musty-smelling theaters on Friday nights, with lobbies full of pretentious pricks in turtlenecks, smoking skinny brown cigarettes held between their middle and ring fingers, pontificating with great earnestness through ludicrous facial hair.

And I know, for a fact, that some of the movies I saw during that era were much, much worse than Plan 9. Wow!

Generally these flicks would have a running time of two hours or so, but it often felt like we were in our seats for days. It was like astronaut training. Most of the bad ones were bad because they were crushingly dull, and impossible to follow. Usually there was a lot of "imagery" that was supposed to mean something other than the obvious; it was like advanced mathematics. And fuck dat.

I remember one in particular. It was at a theater in Atlanta, at the former site of a famous rock club where the Sex Pistols played their first U.S. show, and half of the movie featured a fat girl in a formal dress sitting in the top of an apple tree, for reasons unknown, saying things in a different language, crying, pouting, and making faces. Hours of this. By the time it was over I was almost in tears. Why was this thing made? What was the point of it?? And more importantly, why had I paid good money to watch it?!

Plan 9 is goddamn Citizen Kane compared to that bullshit.

Coincidentally, Toney was dating a guy during that same period who was also into arthouse crapola, and we were probably at some of the same theaters, at the same time. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that my ex and her ex ended up together. Living happily ever after in the warm glow of their mutual hipness.

What do you think is the worst movie of all time?

-- Speaking of dull, are any of you watching Studio 60 on NBC? Yeah, I'm giving it one more week, and if it doesn't improve I'm outta here. I was jazzed about it after the first show, but all of my enthusiasm has since evaporated. I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of sour, miserable, preachy-ass mofos wallow in pessimism and rooms with low-lighting? I don't. Hell, they've even managed to turn Chandler into an insufferable ball-baby bitch of a man.

And all the heavy-handed, condescending political commentary.... If a person were to take a drink every time a character on that show used the term "religious right," they'd be drunk and shitting the silverware drawer by the halfway point. For the love of all mankind, just give it a rest already!

Toney proclaimed this week's episode "torturous," and I think that's an apt description. I'm being mighty generous to give them one more week, and I hope they appreciate it. I really do.

The Nine isn't doing much for me either, but I'm quite enjoying Friday Night Lights. The fake Southern accents are a bit irritating, but at least it's fun to watch. I'm getting the feeling it'll be the only one that makes the cut....

And that's a progress report on the new shows we're watching this year. How about you? Have you found anything good?

-- There are lots more things I wanted to touch on today, but I guess they'll have to wait until Friday. Lame, man. What's happening to me?? In the meantime, here's something new (and perfectly timed) from our old friend Buck.

I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 17, 2006

-- I won an eBay auction a few days ago, and after it was over I saw that the seller doesn't accept PayPal. Grrr...

So I was forced to turn the place upside-down to find an envelope (Toney wasn't home and what do I know about it?). Then I had to write detailed directions to the guy's house on the outside of the thing, and up in the corner: directions back to our house in case something goes wrong.

After I was finished with that I had to find my checkbook, which was inexplicably in the trunk of my car. I sat down and wrote the date, the dude's name, how much money I was ceding to him in numerals, then again in words. That, of course, was followed by the long line which presumably stops thieves from writing the word MILLION in front of the pre-printed DOLLARS, and causing my account to be overdrawn by $999,899.00 -- before overdraft fees. Then I signed my name, which didn't look quite as cool as I'd hoped (which irritates me), there was a brief consideration of the mysterious Memo line, and I was done with Phase Two.

I tore the check out of the book with care, not wanting to rip the bitch in half, something that happens to me quite often. I stuffed everything into the envelope with the directions on the outside, licked the glue strips and thought about George Castanza's girlfriend, and what happened to her after licking envelopes. I reaffirmed that I'm not ready to die yet, and resented all the unnecessary risk-taking.

I got in my car and drove across town, then tried to find a parking space at the post office. There was one spot, but it looked to be a tad narrow. I'm still thinking of my car as new (how long does that last?), and pictured some bearclaw-eating hog kicking her pink Mary Kay door open with her foot, making safe passage for her ample ass, and in the process adding a nice long crease to my front passenger door. So I drove all the way to the end of the line, where there would only be a car to one side of me, thus reducing my exposure by fifty percent.

Inside I had to wait in line because the stamp machine was out of order, and the person in front of me was holding a package with twine tied around it. What's that all about anyway? I never understood it. What purpose does package string serve? I've been wondering this all my life.

We were waiting on a miniature senior citizen, who looked like a regular senior citizen, just shrunk way down to comical proportions. She was bitching to beat the band, about receiving mail at her house addressed to a man she doesn't know. This was the third time, she said, and she's getting tired of it.

The clerk made the mistake of saying, "Well, if it's addressed to your house...." This caused the pocket-sized golden-ager to take it up yet another notch, and practically screamed: "I've lived in that house for 45 years! You people know who lives there, and there's no Frank goddamn McKee!!"

The clerk, clearly a glutton for punishment, told her that if it happens again, she should just write "Not At This Address" on the envelope, and give it to her carrier.

"OH NO!" the portable oldster hollered, "I won't be held responsible if he loses it. Everybody knows he drinks, and you're not going to hang it on me if it's something important and doesn't make it to this McKinney fellow. JUST STOP BRINGING ME MAIL THAT BELONGS TO SOMEBODY ELSE!!" I put that last part in caps because it was said in a wild unhinged screech. Then she added that every time it happens she has to walk to the post office "all the way from School Street," and she's getting goddamn tired of it.

Me and Mr. Twine Package exchanged amused glances, and finally the single-serving senior turned on her heel, stomped across the room, reached way above her head for the door handle, and dramatically left the building. Everybody in the place made an effort not to laugh, but with limited success.

After Twiney finished his transaction (lightning-fast by comparison), it was finally my turn. The cashier looked at my envelope, then back at me, and said with annoyance, "This all?" Man, I almost went over that counter.

From now on it's PayPal or nothing for me. I mean, what the hell? I could've paid the guy with three or four clicks of the mouse, while eating a TastyKake. But nooo, I had to hand a person a piece of paper, who will hand it to another person, who will put it in a truck and drive it all around.... What is this, the Eisenhower era?! It's hilarious. I barely even know how to operate a stamp anymore.

But whatever.

-- Before I go, I'd like to share with you A Few Important Things.

This was in Saturday's newspaper here. Any idea what they're talking about? Is that where Madonna buys her dancers, when she's not out shopping for African babies? Do you have to pay with three dollar bills? Help me out, people, I'm completely confused.

Last week, if you remember, we had a spirited discussion about crapping here at TheWVSR, and over the weekend I received an excellent email from gregscalade on the subject. I asked his permission to reprint it for you guys, and he agreed. So here it is. Don't miss it.

Finally, it's Tuesday and that means it's time for another dispatch from Normal, over at Jason Headley Dotcom. Read it here.

And that'll do it for today, my friends. Have a great day, and I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 16, 2006

-- It's been a rough couple of weeks for aging hipsters. First there was the news of Tower Records shutting their doors. It's been tied-up in bankruptcy court for a long time, and until the very end there was a small chance (hope) that at least some of the stores would remain open. But the judge has ruled, and it looks like it's the end of the line for the legendary retailer. Sad. Everything down to the last stick of incense is to be liquidated, and scattered to the wind. Plus, 3000 haughty music snobs will be hanging up their All Access laminates for the final time.

There were (are?) two Tower stores in Atlanta, and I spent considerable time inside the Buckhead location. I feel kinda guilty about it, but I almost never bought CDs there -- the prices were crazy-high. But they had everything, and it was a great place for browsing. I did spend a good amount of money in their bookstore next-door, however. They had a kick-ass zine section, and the kind of books that I'd stock if I owned a bookstore and didn't give a crap about making any actual, you know, profits.

I also visited the flagship store on Sunset in Hollywood many times, including a night that was almost a religious experience. Somehow (details are foggy) I weaseled my way into a semi-private event with Randy Newman. Randy is one of my all-time heroes; I'll fight the man, with fists and feet, who claims he's not a genius. They locked the doors, shoved the shelving out of the way, and Randy took to the piano and played for an hour or so. We all sat in the floor around him, just a few feet away, and I still get goose bumps thinking about it. He was hilarious and friendly, and hung around for a long time afterwards shooting the shit and signing posters. It's my favorite Tower memory of them all.

Also, CBGB, the place where punk was born, is apparently no more. The last show was Saturday night, after a more than three-decade run. Too bad.

I never visited CBGB, but I drove past it once. Does that earn me any coolness points? Yeah, I didn't think so... I got my hair cut on Saturday, and the tattooed chick who was tending to my tiny Duke head began ranting about the club's closing. I got the feeling that she'd been stewing about it all day, and I was the first person she'd encountered who had any idea what she was talking about. So she unloaded on me.

It was just a torrent of profanity and anger, and I was hoping she wouldn't get herself so worked up she'd accidentally shear off one of my ears. She proclaimed CBGB "hallowed ground," and was pissed that one of the old "millionaire punks" hadn't stepped up and saved the place. Like Johnny Rotten, she said. Something about that didn't seem quite right, but there was no way I was going to argue with her; I was afraid she might get out the straight razor.

Patti Smith played the last show, and I have a confession to make: I never liked her much. I know that's almost heresy, but it happens to be true. I always viewed her as pretentious and artsy-fartsy and about as much fun as Joan Baez on a hayride. I own a few Patti Smith CDs, as required by law, but I don't really like any of them. The first one, Horses? Excruciatingly awful. People that I respect sing the praises of that record, but it makes me want to slam my face through plate glass. Sweet sainted mother of Candy Slice.

There is one positive story on the hipster front: WOXY, a legendary alternative rock radio station has risen from the dead. A few years ago the owners of the Cincinnati-based outfit changed its format and call letters, and it looked to be the end of WOXY. But a group of passionate ex-employees got together and continued it as an internet-only endeavor. They asked for donations, like NPR, and actually made a go of it for a while. Finally the inevitable happened, however, and six or eight weeks ago the owners announced that WOXY could not be sustained, and would be shut down.

The channel stopped broadcasting, and then the website itself disappeared. I'd only recently discovered it, and was saddened by the turn of events. I'd never heard (or even heard of) 90% of the music they played, but it was consistently good. I listened at work, and would invariably jot down the names of bands that I wanted to investigate further, after being exposed to them at WOXY.com. I hated to see them go.

But the station has been saved once again! An internet millionaire, one of those snot-nosed California brats who hit it big, has stepped up and purchased WOXY. He's allowing them to continue as before: same format, same personnel. And last week they were back on the "air." All is right with the world. Hell, they're so flush with cash, they're not even soliciting contributions anymore.

Pretty cool. If I were a snot-nosed California brat who hit it big, I'd support the same kinds of things. I raise a chipped Gettysburg souvenir coffee mug in the dude's honor. He's putting his millions to good use, instead of flushing it down the toilet by making contributions to useless bullshit, like the United Nations or whatever. Pass the beer nuts.

-- And since I'm rambling on about music again, I want to share something with you.

Back in my Atlanta record weasel days I shared an office with two guys for a long, long time. Scott was a black man who loved extreme heavy metal and deathcore and whatever that scary stuff was called. Our boss was named Jim, and was into Jethro Tull and Neil Young, man. We had a stereo in our office, and took turns playing CDs every day.

Scott would play compact discs that seemed to last for three or four hours each. I'm not kidding. Sometimes I was convinced that Satan himself were in our office, hanging out by the fax machine. But Scott knew we didn't like that stuff very well, and tempered his selections accordingly. He was a good guy. Jim would play Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin, and I'd usually go with whatever new discs I had lying around.

One day I played a CD by an Irish band called Ash. At the end of the disc is a "hidden" track that starts playing ten minutes or so after the last song finishes. We didn't know it was there. Scott was just busy and didn't immediately jump to the CD player, so the disc kept playing.

This track featured the band talking to each other, obviously drunk. The sound of empty beer cans can be heard hitting the floor. Eventually one of them starts pissing, then the puking kicks in. And there's more puking, then more.

Jim thought this was high comedy, and played it again. Scott didn't see the humor, and left the room. A few days later Jim put the CD on again, just to hear the bonus track, and Scott got pissed. He was a mild-mannered guy, but was bothered by all the puking and splashing, and he and Jim went at it. Jim was Scott's boss, but Scott was not going to compromise on the issue. He said he didn't need to hear vomiting at work, and made veiled threats about going over Jim's head about it. It got pretty heated.

I just stayed neutral on the subject of pre-recorded Irish upchucking, and tried not to laugh. But I've got the bonus track for ya, right here. It's pretty nasty, so proceed with caution.

-- And that's gonna do it for today, children. I've got lots more, but it'll have to wait. The question of the day occurred to me while watching Law & Order over the weekend. You know how the detectives always ask a person what they were doing last Wednesday night between the hours of six and seven? And the person always has a ready answer, without even thinking about it?

"Yes, I was having dinner with my wife and another couple at the Chateau du Fudgepaque. I had the swordfish with a side of asparagus, and my wife had a filet. I was wearing a blue shirt with khaki pants. Why do you ask?"

That never seemed realistic to me. I can barely remember what I was doing last night, much less some random day from last week. What about you? Can you tell us what you were doing last Wednesday between the hours of six and seven? Do you have an alibi? We need to know, it's all a part of our routine investigation. Use the comments link below to clear yourself.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 13, 2006

-- Since Adelphia shit the bed, and Comcast has taken over, our new overlords apparently wanted to assure us there was nothing to fear, that everything would remain the same. And so, our internet service was down yesterday morning, and I wasn't able to do an update!

Pretty awesome, huh?

-- I went to the local dive bar on Saturday, for my monthly fix of malt and filth. I took my regular seat near the middle of the bar, and started to order a Yuengling Lager, as is the tradition. But on a whim I decided to check the other selections they had on tap.

It looked like the standard line-up: Coors Light (for people who want to drink beer but don't really like it), Miller Lite (same as above, but with a large lesbian following, earning it the nickname Dyke Lite in certain circles), Yuengling Lager (the golden elixir), Budweiser (like having sex in a canoe), and down on the endů a tap handle shaped like a big red V.

Huh, wonder what that is? As the bartender waited impatiently for my decision (he had a Winston going in the ashtray down the way), I hoisted myself off the barstool and checked out the details. It was from Victory Brewing, hence the V, and was called Hop Devil.

Hell yeah! I'd been meaning to try that stuff, but hadn't wanted to take a loan against my 401k to buy a case. And here it was being served in some alcoholic's paradise corner bar. Who could've predicted such a thing? I told the guy I'd go with the Hop Devil, he raised an eyebrow, and struggled to cobble together a pint from the foamy-ass keg.

Damn good! It was just like the stuff I drank on that magical Oregon trip years ago, when I decided to take hops as my personal savior. And did I mention that it was only two bucks? I hoped nobody could tell that I was mildly aroused.

How surreal, drinking such a quality brew in a place like that. I turned to my right and there was a guy who looked like he'd just climbed out of a coal mine, sitting straight up in his chair, but fast asleep. Clearly, he was bed-shittin' drunk. Beside him was a guy younger than me, tossing back shots of something brown, and sipping a beer. And beside him was a crusty old grunting bastard in a Teamsters windbreaker, also indulging in a beer and a brown.

I pretended to act interested in the football game on TV, but I'm not that talented of an actor. I looked across at the incredible pile of garbage on the counter behind the bar, and wondered how many decades it had taken to amass all that stuff. Someday I'd like to get in there with my archeology tools; I bet there's newspapers near the bottom with articles about President Johnson.

I finished my first pint, and told the guy I'd have another. He sighed as if to say, "I knew it." He clearly didn't want to screw around with that rarely used keg again. Too bad for him.

As he toiled, the younger guy to my right tried to waken the straight-up sleeper. "Carl!" he yelled, while shaking the dude's shoulder. Nothing. "Carl!" he hollered a little louder. This time the sleeper stirred a little, but went right back under.

Eventually he woke him up. "I'M ALRIGHT!!" the guy yelled while blinking wildly, and everybody laughed. "I'm taking you home," the younger man said, and told him to put on his coat. Then they left, and the sleeper was walking like he was aboard some sort of seagoing vessel in rough waters. He had to slow way down to thread himself through the doorway.

"He came in that way," the bartender announced matter of factly, before killing off yet another Winston in front of an industrial-strength smoker's squint.

Toney doesn't understand it, but I love that place.

-- Speaking of Toney, she's got me penciled in for the Summer of 2007 to have The Talk (gulp) with the oldest Secret. He'll be eleven soon, and she thinks it's time to "start the dialog." For months she's been bringing it up, apparently trying to get me used to the idea and driving home the point that she's not going to allow me to weasel out of it.

Needless to say, I'm not exactly doing handsprings down the hallway, in anticipation of all this dialog-starting. I mean, I'm Jeff Kay. The role of wise and mature mentor doesn't exactly come easy for me. If I start talking about wieners and whatnot, I WILL bust out in laughter. Hell, I'm laughing right now. Because wieners are hilarious.

Plus, I think he's too young. The thought of having a conversation with him about... that stuff... makes me queasy. He likes blowing up towns full of hicks in his Destroy All Humans! PS2 game. Seems a shame to muddy the waters with ball-talk, and stuff. Why can't we just let kids be kids, without dangling balls in front of their faces and blocking-out the flickering screen of childhood?! 

Or whatever.

But I guess I'm going to have to do it. <sigh> Toney even went out and bought a book about puberty that she thinks he should read. Then afterwards father and son are supposed to sit down and "discuss it." Oh, I can just imagine that conversation. We'll both have expressions of horror, like those pics they snap at amusement parks of you coming down the big drop on the log flume. Then we probably won't be able to make eye-contact for a week.

I checked out the book a few days ago, and opened it to a random page. There in front of me was a cartoon drawing of a boy, wearing nothing but a care-free expression, and sporting all manner of physical maturity. If you get my drift. The drawing was simple, except for The Area, which was highly detailed. And slightly out of proportion, I thought. (At least I hope so.) It looked like Funky Winkerbean with a big ol' porn penis.

Sweet Jesus.

I turned to another page and there was a lineup of naked girls. On the far left was a short little kid, and they progressed to the right, getting gradually taller and, um, more womanly. At the far end was a chick who looked like she should be cavorting in a muddy creek at the Burning Man festival. In the middle of her torso was a large, dark wildness that reminded me of Art Garfunkel in 1965 for some reason.

"I can't do this," I said. I tossed the book aside, and commenced to running my hands through my hair. But, of course, I will do it. Because it's apparently my role. 

Nobody had any Talks with me, though. Not one person. I'm still waiting for my Dad to sit me down. Maybe when we go down there for Thanksgiving? Because there are still a few things I'm unclear about....

No, I just had movies and film strips at school. And, of course, the big communal stash of rain-wrinkled Penthouses hidden in the old tree stump at the corner of 16th Street and Myers Avenue.

I remember one "health" movie that featured some Wally Cleaver-looking dude calling a girl and asking her out on a date. After he hung up, he leaned back in relief with his hands behind his head -- exposing two giant serving platter-sized sweat stains. The entire class screamed in protest.

Another time they had all the boys together at the Jr. High, showing us one of those films, and there was a sense of barely-contained Beavis and Buttheadness in the air. When somebody in the movie uttered the word "ejaculation" it acted as a trigger, and the whole place went up in a mushroom cloud of shrieking laughter. The "coach" angrily turned off the projector and started yelling at us, but there was nothing that could be done. Detonation had already occurred.

What about you? Did anyone sit you down and have The Talk? Was it valuable? Was there any permanent emotional scarring? And do you have any special memories of sex education at school? Tell us about it in the comments, won't you? I need to know.

-- Before I go, I'd like to direct you to the just re-launched Jason Headley site. Jason, of course, is a long-time Friend of TheWVSR, and also a published, intimidatingly-talented novelist  and native of the West Virginia motherland. He's started a weekly column called Around Normal, which will be posted at his site every Tuesday. It's a fictional account of the goings-on in the small town of Normal, and here's the first dispatch. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. Have yourselves a great little Friday the 13th Bourbon Season sumbitch of a weekend.

See ya on Monday. 
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October 11, 2006

-- We winterized our camper over the weekend and I'm proud to announce that I didn't have to call my Dad even once. I even emptied the hot water tank, the part that usually gets me to running my hands through my hair, muttering illogical cuss-combinations, and reaching for the cell phone. But I guess I'm learning, because the job was done with no problems. Same goes for the draining of the lines underneath. Toney removed the food, took the TV out of there, and, all in all, it was a fairly painless exercise.

I haven't said it in front of the Secrets, but I'm pretty sure we've reached the end of the line with that rolling box o' beds. I think that horrible heat-blast trip we took in the summer was final confirmation that we're not really Camping People. Of all the excursions we took in that thing, we're only able to remember two with any fondness whatsoever. And I think we're fooling ourselves with one of 'em.

Our first trip to Myrtle Beach seems like a success to us now. But in reality it rained a lot of the time, which turned our campsite into to an open-face strip mine. And at night the wind cranked up to about 50 mph, and I was convinced, convinced!, that the bitch was about to turn over, and I'd end up with a length of aluminum through my neck. Plus there's the issue of our beer cooler being stolen in the dead of night.... Man, I'm still pissed about that. So, if we really want to be honest about it, I think time has succeeded in sanding off some of the rough edges of that vacation.

A couple of years ago we went to Cooperstown, NY, and that was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, the area is beautiful, and nothing terrible happened. But that was our lone successful outing in the pop-up camper (of despair).

So, we'll probably put it up for sale in the spring. Hell, I don't even have a vehicle to pull it with anymore, so why fool ourselves? The kids won't be very happy about it, but I'm sure with a little grief counseling they'll pull through. And we'll do other things; it doesn't mean we'll never go anywhere ever again. Right? ...Hello?

Next spring it looks like we're locked-in to visiting Sunshine and Mumbles in Reno. They come here all the time (it goes without saying), and now they're turning up the heat on Toney for us to visit them for a change. Simply excellent. The thought of spending a couple thousand dollars for the privilege of sitting on a couch for four days and listening to Sunshine pontificate about bizarre conspiracy theories has me all a-tingle.

But maybe we can do a day trip to Lake Tahoe while we're there, possibly even San Francisco, and make the best of it?

Do I sound skeptical?

Also, we're planning a really cool trip for the summer. My Mom and Dad are always wanting the boys to come stay with them for a while, and Toney and I might parlay that into a return to Atlanta. We'll drop the Secrets and Andy off at my folks' house (for several days of spoilage and fun), and Toney and I will continue on to Hotlanta. We haven't been there in almost ten years, and I'd love to go back. The food... the bars... the squalor... Man, I'm all jacked about that one.

And we have a couple of other tentative things up our sleeves. We'll see how it goes. If we play our cards right, nobody will even notice that we sold the camper and bought a giant television with the money. Ahem.

What about you? I know it's early, but do you have any trips planned for next summer? Tell us about it, dammit.

-- As promised, Gregscalade sent me a pic of a common toilet in Japan that he snapped on a recent visit there. Check this thing out. Apparently you're supposed to just squat over it, and yell, Bombs Away! Or, if you prefer, Tora! Tora! Tora! 

I don't know... You'd practically have to strip naked just to take a crap. Then there'd be the whole issue of aiming, with much larger ramifications than we Americans are accustomed to. I'd be willing to bet that it's not uncommon to enter a bathroom stall in Japan and finding one hanging off the lip of the bowl, like a slice of lemon on a glass of iced tea. Ya know? 

And have they never heard of Tilex over there?? Holy shit.

-- Speaking of Atlanta, here are the Top 20 Blackest and Whitest Names, according to ABC News.

-- This thing kicks off on Friday night, and I've already given the DVR its marching orders. Pretty darn cool, I think.

-- I bought this postcard a couple of days ago through an eBay auction. It's my hometown in 1917. If you look closely you can see my great-grandfather holding the wrong end of a screwdriver, and bitching about the heat.

-- My friend Tim saw an, um, interesting article in People magazine recently, while sitting in a doctor's office waiting room. He thoughtfully ripped the page out and mailed it to me, and here it is. Freaky, man. Like Omen freaky. Check out the hat!

-- I snapped this pic in a so-called party store over the weekend. Turn your TV into a strobe light, boyee!

-- Finally, this is pretty great. I think Brad tipped me off to it. Can you name them all? I can.

And I've got more of this stuff, but it's gonna have to wait. You guys have a great day, y'hear?

See ya tomorrow. 
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October 10, 2006

-- I was in a furniture store over the weekend, looking at big ol' sectional couches. I have an obsession, that just flared up again, with fixing up our family room. I mentioned the TV yesterday, but I'd like to overhaul everything, not just the television situation. We have a living room upstairs, with newish furniture, hardwood floors, fancy rugs, etc. But downstairs is the room where we spend our evenings. It's where we watch TV, snuggle 'neath the Scrote-watching blankets, and all that good stuff. And it's far from aesthetically pleasing.

Currently it's "furnished" with stray pieces of furniture we've picked up along the way, all mismatched of course. In the corner is a chair we bought in California that now has a rip in it, strategically located to make people invariably crack, "Did you fart that thing apart, Jeff?" Our 1000 lb television with the tiny screen sits atop some cheap-ass stand that we bought at IKEA in Burbank, and is just crying out to be hurled into a landfill. In one corner sits all my DVDs, just stacked up in the floor.

The room looks exactly like every apartment I ever had in my twenties, without the copies of Swank and Domino's box(es) full of crusts.

So, every few months I get it in my head that we should just bite the bullet and fix it up. Oh, we have a vision. We'd like to toss all of the old furniture, and buy a big sectional couch that goes in front of two walls. Know what I mean? And, of course, there will have to be the gargantuan TV, and possibly even the full-on theater system. Toney wants to cover the walls in vintage travel posters, and the whole thing just brings a tear to my eye when I imagine it.

But, of course, it will require considerable fundage, or we'll have to accept the idea of taking on more debt. Therefore, we're currently engaging in a lot of hemming and hawing, and little else. It's an old familiar story.

None of that is what I was planning to talk about, though.... I was in the furniture store on Saturday, and passed a bathroom. I told Toney I'd catch up to her, and slipped inside for a quick coffee-scented pee. As I stood there letting nature takes its course, I realized that somebody was in one of the booths -- shitting. There was a lot of grunting, heavy breathing, and what sounded like a kid playing scales on some sort of reed instrument.

We've discussed this before, and I'm not joking when I tell you that this sort of thing is baffling to me. I'm 43 years old, have been around the block a few times, and simply can't imagine a series of events that would ultimately lead to me taking a shit in a furniture store. Ya know? I mean, this obviously wasn't a case of the runs either, the dude was laboring. What the hell, man?!

I sincerely don't understand. And it's everywhere we go. It seems the entire world is crapping, all the time. Target... Outback Steakhouse... the circus... it doesn't matter. If you enter a public restroom, there's a good chance some guy will be in there taking a big whistling dump. It's mind-boggling to me. Never, in all my life, have I said, "Oh, I don't know, honey. That Sealy TrueForm Gold looks like a really good mattress -- I have to shit."

But am I the weird one here? It's well-documented that I've mastered the art of mind-over-waste matter. My body knows there's no point in even asking anymore, there will be no sit-downs during the day. That's to be handled at home, in the morning and/or evening. Crapping at a Wegman's will simply never happen to me; I'll travel to the moon first. But am I in the minority? Am I the freak? Apparently so.

I remember walking into a bathroom at some horrible rock club in Greensboro years ago. It was just one big room with a tragically stained toilet in the corner, the seat long-since ripped free and probably out in the alley. Some dude was in there -- at a rock show! -- trying to keep his balance and hovering over the bowl. As I walked through the door I saw his bare white ass, and something swinging from it. I still have nightmares.

And my brother knows a guy who is a truck driver. He told him recently that he was hauling a load through Chicago, in the middle of the day, and suddenly needed to crap with a great urgency. He weighed his options and didn't think he could make it to the next rest area or truck stop. So he pulled his rig to the side of the highway, turned on the emergency flashers, pulled his pants down and hung his butt cheeks over the guard rail.

I mean, seriously. Is that action understandable to any of you? Or are you like me, and suspect showboating? Either that, or the man needs to see a physician, straight away. I know that nobody likes a braggart, but I could've easily made it to Nebraska from metro Chicago. Possibly Wyoming.

What about you? Have you ever been "caught short" and forced to use the bathroom in an unusual place? Tell us about it in the comments, won't you? For some reason I'm fascinated by this phenomenon, and also mildly skeptical.

My friend Tim told me that when he was in the Army he was stationed somewhere with a bathroom that featured toilets in a circle. Just right out in the middle of the floor, with no partitions or anything. So you'd be sitting there, and right across from you would be Syl from Tallahassee, or whatever. Shitting in-the-round: another nightmare generator.... Man, I'd have to set my alarm for 3 am, or just wait until my tour of duty was up, in two years. Under the circumstances, I believe I could make it.

Sweet Maria. How did we go from sectional sofas to this?? I'll see you guys tomorrow. 
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October 9, 2006

-- Yesterday I was looking through the ads in the paper, and became fixated on big-ass televisions. Again. I need one of those things, stat. We're still using two 1000 lb 27-inchers from the Atlanta days, and they just don't get the blood pumping anymore. Ya know? Oh, they were big 'uns when they were new, but now it feels like we're watching something from the 1950s -- the kind that required you to hook a water line up to it, or whatever. I keep thinking Toney is about to ask me to climb up on the roof and adjust our "aerial."

Several times I've been right on the cusp of taking Circuit Shitty or Best Buy up on one of their "no payments until 2008" offers, but I just can't pull the trigger. I'm terrified of running up debt, because of bad experiences in the past. And for some reason there's just never thousands of dollars laying around the Compound, unspoken for. So I just daydream with enthusiasm, sigh loudly, then shuffle to the kitchen and bury myself to the waist in the food pantry. It's the cycle of life.

When Toney and I first started dating, back in olden times, we were quite content to take in a $1 movie on a Saturday afternoon, then make a beeline to Moe's and Joe's for a $4 pitcher of Pabst Blue Ribbon. We had a good time, and spent very little money -- mostly because we didn't have any.

Then, for reasons I can't quite explain, we developed (indulged?) a taste for the finer things. Lunch in the "red booth" at Atsa Pizza was replaced by fancy-ass Sunday brunches with yuppie scum, sipping hazelnut coffee and acting all sophisticated in dress shirts. We'd occasionally drive up to Asheville, NC and spend a night or two in a bed and breakfast there, and "take some spirits on the veranda."

So, we already had a tendency in that direction, and it wouldn't be fair to blame it all on Mark and Sue. But they played a big part in our financial downfall, no doubt about it.

Mark and Sue were friends we met in Atlanta. I worked with Sue at a bookstore in Buckhead, and over time the four us became couple friends. We'd go out for "a beer" after work, and end up closing the joint down, laughing and raising one hell of a racket. We got along well, had the same cynical sense of humor, and everything, against great odds, just clicked.

Mark worked for a large Atlanta-based cable news network, which I'd rather not name, and Toney and I were still in the record biz. I also worked at a bookstore part-time, where Sue was the accounting department. We were basically in the same places in our lives, and were making roughly the same amount of money.

However..... Mark had family money, and apparently lots of it. He also had a sense for adventure that led us into all manner of ridiculousness. One night he called and said he'd been promoted at his job, and he and Sue were celebrating by renting a suite at the Ritz-Carlton. They invited us to join them for "a beer."

After dinner we went to the hotel, and saw that we had some catching up to do. Mark and Sue were already rip-roarin' drunk, and he'd somehow charmed the staff into sneaking them expensive bottles of champagne and full-on party platters from the kitchen. The guy could talk anyone into anything, and it was just one thing after another. By all rights we should've been bounced from that place, but he had the whole crew in his back pocket, making (and being granted) the most ridiculous of requests. It was a blast for everyone except Sue, who ended the evening talking into the big porcelain phone.

And that set the tone for our relationship. We were in constant search for adventure, and spending way too much money. Several times we took weekend trips to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a freaking resort off the coast of Georgia. I remember sitting in the main dining room there, having breakfast off fine china, and the black-tie waiter asked if I'd like my butter "drawn." I had no idea what he was talking about, and looked to see if he had a sketch pad with him.

On one of our Jekyll Island trips, there was an amputee convention at the hotel. The place was completely overrun with people sporting less than standard equipment. The first night we gravitated (needless to say) to the pub, and ended up enjoying one of the most surreal evenings ever. Imagine dozens of drunken people, singing and waving their stumps in the air. Folks were discussing the latest advances in prosthetics, and detaching and reattaching their legs. I saw a woman sipping a beer held to her lips by two trembling sweet potato arms, and we were right up in the middle of all of it. ....Mostly because of Mark, who is The Bullshitter. I think before the night was over he had several invitations to visit some of the amputees in their homes.

Yes, it was all great fun, but we were having trouble keeping up with them financially. When they started talking about a trip to Europe we had to admit that there was no way we could afford such a thing, and that made us feel like losers. They went anyway, of course, and met somebody in a bar somewhere, which led to them being invited to spend a weekend in a haunted 14th century castle overlooking the water, or some such thing. Most people just go out for a drink, not so with Mark and Sue. Spend some time with them, and there's a very good chance that something unbelievable will happen.

By the time I was transferred to California, all of our credit cards were maxed-out and we were way up Turd River. Add in the insane cost of living out there, and it's a recipe for bad. Instantly we went from drawn butter to a big ol' sack of 39 cent tacos from the Del Taco drive-through. Toney and I started arguing, and it sucked for a long time. It literally took us years to dig ourselves out of that mess.

And that's why I won't buy a TV on credit. Pass the beer nuts.

Mark and Sue? Oh, they're still chugging right along. They eventually left Atlanta as well, and have a couple of kids. Every year or so I'll receive an email from Mark that says, "How are you doing? We miss you guys!" I'll write him back with a brief update, then nothing for another year.

They used to maintain one of those family websites, where friends and relatives could read about their latest adventures. I looked at it once and clicked on photos. The first thing that popped up was a picture of them at a royal wedding in Saudi Arabia (I think). The caption said that Mark had met the groom while deep-sea fishing near Greece, or something along those lines. I just X'd out of it, but not quite fast enough to stop the full-body shiver.

Holy shit!

-- And now I'm going to turn it over to Buck, and drag my sorry ass to work.

Have a great day, folks. See ya tomorrow. 
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October 6, 2006

-- Sorry about yesterday. It was one of those mornings when I just couldn't get it together. I sat down to write, like I always do, and it was as if an inanimate object had been propped-up in front of the keyboard. Like a toaster oven, or a hedge apple. And it's been my experience that hedge apples don't generally produce good copy. So screw it. I turned off the computer and went to Waffle House.

Toney didn't have to be at work until 10:30, so she went with me. Or as more and more horribly misguided mofos insist on saying it, she went with. I ordered the usual: scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns with cheese (scattered and covered), toast, and sweet tea. 

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: never, for the love of God, order coffee at Waffle House. Does the term painful fecal geyser mean anything to you? Well, ignore my advice and it will, my friends.

I always get the same breakfast meal there, and it's consistently good. But yesterday I believe I was served the Worst Hash Browns Ever. Check it out. That fried-up discus on the edge of the plate was once potatoes, if you can believe it. By the time their cook got finished though, it was just an emaciated husk, leeched of all its fluids and hard as a bullet. And check out that high-end cheese they use. Heh.

Toney said I should send it back. But it's Waffle House. Ya know? I hate people who bitch and moan about cheap crappy food, as if they're seated in the main dining room at the Ritz-Carlton Bangkok. I had a boss in Atlanta who did that all the time, and it made me want to choke the life out of him. It's fast food, douchesack, and you know the risks going in; it's one step away from kneeling in front of a conveyor belt with your mouth open, and hollering, "Ready!"

Surprisingly enough, the 'browns weren't all that bad. You know, once I cracked open the hard outer shell. Inside, the taters were still moist and tasty, which I couldn't have predicted; it was like eating crab legs, or something. Not exactly the way I prefer them, mind you, but not as awful (Awful House?) as I'd originally feared.

As I was paying I picked up this flier, and knew immediately what I'd be doing this weekend. Only 100 words though? Man, wotta challenge. Wish me luck.

-- Speaking of Waffle House, they only take cash there, no credit cards, etc. And I don't like that. I've reached a point where I'm almost cash-free. I use my ATM card for everything: groceries, gas, restaurant bills, new pants after I blow the ass out of yet another pair.... If it weren't for the vending machines at work, I think I could completely live my life without having actual dollar bills in my pocket.

Years ago people predicted that this would happen, and I didn't believe it and also didn't like the sound of it. Plastic cards that you swipe everywhere? It's like something out of A Clockwork Orange: a tad soulless and creepy. Yet here I am, irritated because some businesses won't let me do my swiping. A man is entitled to swipe!

The same thing happened with cell phones. I remember pontificating in knowing tones that if a person can't drive to the freakin' grocery store for a box of Nilla Wafers without remaining in constant contact with the outside world, then that person is either a mental patient, a poser, or drastically over-scheduled. But in 2006 I feel completely naked and ill at ease if I forget and leave my phone at home. A short little phoneless trek to the post office to drop off a Netflix movie now seems wildly risky, and not at all advisable.

Has anything like this happened to you?

-- Last night I watched a new TV show called The Nine. It debuted after LOST (an appropriately titled show, by the way; I have no idea what's going on anymore) on Wednesday, and I told the DVR to record it. It looks semi-promising, and I've given my DVR friend the go-ahead to record next week's episode as well.

It stars Bailey from Party of Five, as a doctor who was one of nine hostages taken during a bank robbery. Apparently these nine strangers will be forever connected in some way, and that's what the show is about. I'm not really clear on it.

But I guess the network figured they hit the jackpot with Charlie, so why not roll the dice with Bailey too? It doesn't matter that he looks alarmingly like Pat Sajak now, he was a member of the Salinger clan on Party of Five, and that just might be a good luck charm.

If this one proves to be a hit like LOST, also look for ABC to bring back that humorless older sister who was always up on her high-horse about something. And maybe even Bailey's ample-breasted girlfriend? I think I read that she has a show on some cable channel where she plays a deeply-religious psychic who can talk to horses, or somesuch. But that can't last long, can it? And what about that annoying younger sister with the Hanna-Barbera voice? Hell, there's a whole bunch of 'em...

I predict that the Salingers and their loved-ones are the future of American television! That's right, we are now entering the Era of Salinger!! ...Yeah, I have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

-- Before I go, I want to direct you to this cool site that features dozens and dozens of old cereal boxes. Sounds kinda lame, but it ain't. Here's a personal favorite, and this one reminds me of aisle five at the grocery store where I worked as an ugly teenager. Check it out.

And that's gonna do it, boys and girls. The question of the day is, can you name all these people? I can't, but maybe you can?

Have a great weekend, and I'll see ya on Monday. 
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October 4, 2006

-- After high school and while I was in "college," I worked at a shitty little grocery store near my parents' house. I was a stocker, or a bag boy, or whatever name you wanted to attach to the gang of zitty ne'er do wells who prowled the aisles there in ludicrous knit ties. It was one of those stopgap jobs, something you do until a better opportunity comes along, and this was understood. Little was expected of us, and little was given. And, in turn, we were paid the least amount the federal government would allow.

One day I was working and a woman came in, filled her shopping cart to the brim, then walked straight out the front door without paying. The manager, a man named Skeeter, saw this and came rocketing out his elevated Pope's perch of an office. He somehow got her back into the store, and asked her what in the hand-dipped hell she thought she was doing.

The customer, a big Koko Taylor I can love you like a woman or fight you like a man black lady, told Skeeter that she'd paid for her groceries with "kumquat money."

The hell? Skeeter, like the rest of us, was thoroughly confused and told one of the cashiers to call the cops. And that's when the woman went wild. She began screeching in some sort of crazed and sustained high-pitched wail, going on and on about the kumquat money.

The head cashier, a poofter of the highest order, minced over and told us that the woman had placed a nickel in the windowsill near the front door when she'd first arrived. He wondered if this was what she was talking about. Skeeter, shaking his head in disbelief, said a nickel wouldn't cover it, and again told the guy to call the police.

The next thing I know, the woman has Skeeter in a bear hug and is spinning him around and around, while screaming like a wild Indian. Skeeter's tiny boys size 9 shoes were slapping at the air, like he was riding an invisible bicycle, and I just about crapped myself. We all jumped into action and came to our comrade's defense, eventually wresting him from her powerful grip.

When the cops got there they asked for her name, and she told them it was "Secretariat." They were in no mood for fun and games, and hauled her ass to jail. I'm not sure what became of her after that.

But I told my grandmother the story the next day, and she was familiar with the phrase "kumquat money." She said it was something old-timers used to say, but I can't remember the details. Seems that it had something to do with buying items on credit. Any ideas? Have you ever heard this term? What the hell, man?

-- When I lived in Greensboro I worked at a large record store called Peaches. It was something along the lines of a Tower Records, not some tiny piss-ant mall store, thank you very much. I was a manager there, and so were Brad and Eugene, who sometimes post in our comments section.

Anyway, I was working one night when the cashier told me about a really strange call she'd just taken. It was a man who was looking for a specific classical album. After she located it, he asked if she could do him a favor.

He wanted her to place the LP in a plastic Peaches bag, tape it up really snug like a birthday present, then put it inside another bag and tape that one up extra tight. He'd be in, he said, later that evening to pick it up. Then before he ended the call, he implored her, "Make sure you use lots of tape, lots and lots of Scotch tape."

Mildly freaked out, the cashier came to me and asked what to do. I told her to go ahead and do what he wanted, and I'd be by her side when the nutcase got there. This didn't seem to provide her with much comfort, but she went ahead and did it.

Sure enough, the guy showed a few hours later. He was some creepy, sweaty man in his mid-forties, all fidgety and nervous. He asked for his package, and we handed it to him. Immediately he began rubbing his hand over the plastic and tape, then started moaning and rolling his eyes back in his head.

Sweet Maria. I thought we were going to have to roll out the mop bucket, and I tried to hurry the weirdo out the door. And while he was paying, we were treated to the freakiest part of all. He looked us straight in the eyes, and slowly raised his right sleeve, revealing a forearm covered in dozens of small pieces of Scotch tape. Holy shit!

A few days later I saw the guy walking across the parking lot, coming toward us. Brad was in the manager's station on the other side of the sales floor, and I called his extension. "There he is!" I whisper-hollered, "The Tape Man is coming through the front door right now!!" By this point the man had reached almost mythological status amongst Peaches employees, needless to say.

Brad, without missing a beat, hung up the phone and started yelling across the entire expanse of the store: "Jeff, do you have any TAPE up there? I have some things that I really need to TAPE, but I can't seem to find any TAPE where the TAPE should be!" I joined in on the fun, and we managed to scream the word TAPE about twenty times in thirty seconds.

And that was the last time we saw The Tape Man.

I was going to make this a full-on trilogy, but I'm all out of time, I'm afraid. I have another story that fits perfectly into this Batshit Crazy People In A Retail Setting series, but it's gonna have to wait.

Why don't you guys take it from here? I'm sure there's no shortage of tales to tell. Right?

Have a great day folks, and I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 3, 2006

-- On Friday after work I used National Lampoon money to buy the first bourbon of Bourbon Season '06. I got the largest bottle of Maker's Mark the store stocks, and it cost me $46.99 plus tax. Never, in all my life, have I spent so much money on booze. Not all at once, anyway.

I carried it to my car like a newborn baby, careful to support its neck and to keep its body out of the elements. After strapping it into a safety seat, I drove home with my hands in the ten and two o'clock positions, and placed the bottle gingerly on the shelf. And later that night Toney and I drank a toast to what we hope will be another successful Season.

We're planning to take it slow, and treat the Maker's Mark the way it was intended: as sippin' whiskey. In previous years we overdid it a little, and by Thanksgiving I was starting to lose enthusiasm. Oh, we didn't turn into Janis Joplin and Slash, carrying the jug around the house with us, or anything like that. But we were guilty of not pacing ourselves, and of front-loading the Season a bit. This year we're not going to repeat past mistakes.

Or so we say.

-- We were at the mall a few days ago, inside one of those temporary Halloween stores where a person can purchase all manner of fucked-upness. Like, for instance, a man with no skin that groans and shudders when you walk near it. Too freakin' weird.

The place was full of kids, and grown-ups too. The Secrets were checking out every little thing, and I didn't think we'd ever get out of there. I was just kinda hanging out in the background, glazing over with boredom, when my cell phone rang. It was Toney. She was in another store, and wanted to know how much longer we were going to be.

We started having a conversation, and I walked over to the Secrets and absent-mindedly slapped the youngest on the back. Only it wasn't one of my kids(!), it was a stranger who was standing beside them. Obviously I wasn't paying too close attention...

The little booger-machine looked up at me with surprise in his eyes, and by the time I realized what was happening, and started apologizing, he'd run away. Oh shit, I thought. He'll probably go to his mother and say that a husky man with Jiffy Pop hair tried to abduct him, or that I had my pants around my ankles, or something like that.

And the rest of the time we were at the mall I kept looking over my shoulder, certain that Jay Santos of the Citizen's Auxiliary Police (Phil Hendrie reference) would grab me and drag me to the dank catacombs below Viewmont Mall, where I would be thoroughly "questioned."

But nothing happened.

-- In a few weeks I get to choose a new cell phone, so I'm always dragging my family to the Verizon kiosk at the mall for another extended session of "just looking." As nerdy as it sounds, I've been doing some research, and I'm pretty certain I'm going to go with this one. It feels good in my hand, looks cool, and gets nothing but rave reviews. As far as I can tell, it's the phone that gives you the most bang for the buck. 

Any opinions, pro or con? And man, is pick-a-new-phone time exciting, or what? It's the most wonderful time of the year!

-- You know how soup and chili, and stuff like that, are so much better as leftovers? Well, I'm thinking about opening a chain of restaurants, called the Second Time Around Stew Shoppe. Everything we sell will be AT LEAST two days old. If you'd like to get in on the ground floor of this exciting venture, just drop me an email. Serious inquiries only, please. ...Hello?

-- I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant a few days ago and formulated a theory. I now suspect that some folks simply possess better mouth acoustics than others. In the past I was quick to write people off as having the manners of a standard head of livestock, but am starting to wonder if that's fair. 

Like any good scientist, I observe. And I'm beginning to see evidence that it's not the manner in which nacho chips are eaten, really, it's how well the noise carries across the room afterwards. Certain people, I think, naturally have a mouth like the goddamn Hollywood Bowl, and the loud, crashing, car-wreck explosions just leap from their maws. 

While, at the same time, similar sounds are muffled and die a quick death, when created by another subject.  Because of mouth acoustics, I believe. 

Of course I'm still in the early stages of exploring this theory, and I'll update you on any further findings.

-- And finally... I have a confession to make. In my entire life I've never lived in a house with a toaster oven. It's true. I see them at stores, and in ads, and it's all one big murky mystery to me. I wouldn't know how to use one, and don't even know their purpose. Sincerely. Do you have any such shocking confessions? What common part of the American culture is a murky mystery to you? Tell us about it in the comments, won't you?

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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October 2, 2006

-- A few days ago Andy was in the front yard snorkeling around and tip-toeing through the tulips, when he suddenly began his approach. It's a highly technical process, a dog taking a crap, and an amazing thing to observe. He zeroed in on the approximate target, humped up like a kangaroo, then started going around and around. Every once in a while it seemed like he was ready to stop his spinning, his search for the perfect spot, only to ratchet up the rotations all over again.

The suspense was palpable.

Finally he lowered the landing gear, reduced power, and lifted his flaps. And just as the task was started, a big red truck came screaming up the hill and wheezed and sighed to a stop in front of our house. It was a guy making a water delivery to the people across the street. He jumped out of the cab and noisily rolled-up the tall doors on the side of the truck, and proceeded to remove two or three of those bloop bloop water cooler jugs.

Andy was not a fan of any it. Apparently all the racket scared him, and he abruptly cut-off operations. I saw that he had a turd sticking straight out, like a handlebar grip protruding from his ass. And he started going wild.

He ran in a big circle around the yard, just wide-open, and was making weird huffing noises like a Clydesdale in full trot. Occasionally he'd slow down and try to re-assume the kangaroo position, before thinking better of it and rocketing off again. Then he began making little yelping noises, and rolling across the lawn. WTS??

I saw that the convenient easy-grip handle was still in place.

He had a wild look in his eyes, like something dangerous was chasing him, and every once in a while he'd throw himself sideways and roll a few feet. A new maneuver, for sure. Then he'd get back up and start running again. Eventually he began dragging his ass across the yard, and looked at me with a sad "please do something" expression on his snoutly face.

Oh no, I panicked, am I going to have to scrape it out with a stick? Like that rugby team whose airplane crashed in the Andes?! But after the truck finally went away, and following twenty or so torturous laps around the yard, he wandered into Half-Shirt territory and picked up where he'd originally left off.

It might've just been my imagination, but I thought I could actually hear the sound of a cork coming out of a bottle. Then the handgrip was no more, followed by a few other assorted goodies, and everything was back to normal. As he jogged back to the house there was a happy spring to his step.

But it was an excruciating affair, I'm telling you. And both of us required a nap.

-- Surf Reporter Joseph sent along this photo of something he spotted on an Arby's bag over the weekend. Heh.

-- And I took this one myself. It's in front of a shop not far from our house, and apparently they're serving up wireless donuts there! Can any of you tech-savvy folks out there tell me what kind of special equipment, if any, I'd require to interface with these delicious pastries?

-- Here's a cool site that will translate your name into Russian.

-- And this is an article I read yesterday, about Neil Armstrong's revised first words spoken on the moon. Apparently this has been a controversy for years? I had no idea. I thought the mystery had been solved a long time ago?

-- Finally, I need your help with something. For Christmas we want to buy both Secrets a decent stereo for their new bedrooms, and, as a personal project for me, I'd like to start them out with a good solid musical foundation. It's something I'm going to work on, over time. I want to give them each five or six CDs that will hopefully form the cornerstone of a lifetime of good musical taste.

The one definite selection will be the Beatles' 1, but it gets a little blurry after that. Oh, there's hundreds of things I could choose, but you can't just go into it all willy-nilly. Many artists, I believe, can't be appreciated until you become familiar with some other artist. Ya know? You start jumping the queue, mister, and you're just asking for trouble.

So, help me out with this one. And remember, the Secrets are only ten and eight years old; the Captain Beefheart catalog and We're The Meatmen... And You Suck! aren't gonna work. No, I'm looking for the basic building blocks, the fundamentals that will form a solid background for a lifetime of haughty you-may-approach-the-throne rock snobbery.

I'd appreciate your assistance. Use the comments link below.

And I'll see ya tomorrow. 
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